Lyft drives down IT’s manual processes by automating with Okta

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez August 30, 2017
We speak to head of IT at Lyft, Johan Dowdy, about how the company is using Okta as a sign-on and lifecycle management tool, to automate processes.

Popular ride sharing service Lyft is scaling its company quickly and is needing to introduce more automation into its IT processes, as its employee base grows rapidly. Ad-hoc, manual workflows were sufficient for a certain period, but an inflection point has been reached and Lyft has rolled out Okta to not only help on-board and off-board employees onto business apps, but also improve the end-user experience.

I got the chance to speak with Lyft’s head of IT, Johan Dowdy, at Okta’s annual user event in Las Vegas this week, where he explained how the ride-sharing service began its journey towards greater automation in the fall of last year, which was shortly followed by a brief evaluation process. Dowdy said:

We selected and moved forward in the January timeframe and have been doing the implementation ever since. We were looking for an enterprise class tool to consolidate all of our single sign-on processes. What we were using prior to this was just not able to scale, we needed something that could scale. It also didn’t have any capabilities for provisioning and de-provisioning, which for us is one of the critical aspects of moving to a tool like Okta.

Prior to introducing Okta, Lyft had relied heavily on ad-hoc, manual processes, alongside some Google Apps capabilities (of which it is a big customer). However, this combination of tools reached a “critical mass” and Google Apps couldn’t scale out. In fact, Google Apps recommended that Lyft go with Okta (of which it is also a strategic partner). It’s also worth noting that Dowdy has implemented Okta at both Workday and Twitter, in previous roles.

Of the outcomes, Dowdy said:

It helps to automate the user lifecycle management process - adding and moving users from applications, a lot of the manual work of IT. So, when you’re on boarding and bringing people into the company.

But also, critically, when you’re off boarding and you have to run through a long checklist of things and manually login to systems and remove people. Okta is the great first step in fully automating that process, so that by logging into Okta, clicking on a couple of buttons, and pressing enter, you can effectively remove users access from a number of critical systems without having to go through those manual processes.

So efficiencies inside of IT, around automation, are one of the key themes, but also having a single portal for users to access a number of enterprise applications to simplify the on boarding experience and the user experience.

For Lyft, this is entirely an internal corporate IT initiative, so this does not extend out to drivers. However, there are now already approximately 1,500 users of the Okta system and this has doubled in size in the past year, as Lyft continues to hire.

The benefits

Lyft’s main objective is that for any of these types of application that are being used internally with a manual process, to work towards automating things as early as possible inside Okta. The efficiencies gained from this are notable, according to Dowdy. He said:

If you look, even in shorthand, a simple app, in terms of adding and or removing the amount of time it might have taken someone to log into the system, to add an account, to make some detailed notes on it, or undo that process, IT could spend 15 minutes doing that - where in Okta it takes about 10 seconds. It’s definitely reduced a lot of our work. It’s very obvious to the team that’s using it, is that something that used to 15 minutes, now takes them seconds.

And Lyft is currently going through the process of identifying as many of the company’s cloud applications as possible, to bring them into Okta, so that users have one portal whereby they can access all the systems that they need. Dowdy said:

For the end users, they will start to notice that that’s where they go for all of their apps. One of the challenges in IT is identifying every type of cloud app used inside of your company. We are doing that reconnaissance work in parallel with moving things over.

As we discover new apps we are working to move them in. Some things we don’t know yet, but it is the strategy moving forward and in a perfect future state, a user will log in, fire up Okta, and see pretty much everything that they might need access to.

I was also curious to find out from Dowdy whether or not Lyft had considered Okta’s recently announced API platform, which allows Okta to be used as a layer between front-end digital apps and back-end management and security. And whilst this isn’t something that Lyft is working on at present, it has sparked conversation internally. Dowdy said:

That’s something that we haven’t really solidified yet. It’s definitely engendered some good internal discussions. But we don’t have a plan or a roadmap around that right now. It’s definitely something that was a differentiator and it was something that made it of interest.

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